Moral Asymmetry in Warfare: Israel and Hezbollah

BY Herschel Smith
8 years, 2 months ago

It now looks as if Hezbollah has used civilian buildings to fire rockets, causing the targeting of Qana by the IAF:

Some 150 rockets were fired from the Lebanese village of Qana over the past 20 days, Air Force Chief of Staff Brig.-Gen. Amir Eshel said on Sunday evening.

Speaking to reporters, Eshel added that Hizbullah rocket launchers were hidden in civilian buildings in the village. He proceeded to show video footage of rocket launchers being driven into the village following launches.

Eshel also pointed out that the building was hit sometime around midnight Saturday night and didn’t collapse until about 8 a.m. Sunday morning, leaving an unusual gap in the timing of the events which the IDF was investigating. 

More on this, hat tip to Macsmind:

THIS is the picture that damns Hezbollah. It is one of several, smuggled from behind Lebanon’s battle lines, showing that Hezbollah is waging war amid suburbia.

The images, obtained exclusively by the Sunday Herald Sun, show Hezbollah using high-density residential areas as launch pads for rockets and heavy-calibre weapons.

Dressed in civilian clothing so they can quickly disappear, the militants carrying automatic assault rifles and ride in on trucks mounted with cannon.

The photographs, from the Christian area of Wadi Chahrour in the east of Beirut, were taken by a visiting journalist and smuggled out by a friend. 

I have talked before about the moral asymmetry that marks this current conflict in Hezbollah Uses Religion and Humans to Hide from IDF.  In addition to moral asymmetry there is a tactical asymmetry that marks this conflict.  Defense Tech has an interesting article that says in part:

In every area — from firing rockets to defending prepared positions… — we have examples of Hezbollah teams deciding, adapting, innovating, and collaborating without reference to any central authority. The result of this decentralization is that Hezbollah’s aggregate decision cycles are faster and qualitatively better than those of their Israeli counterparts… the continued success of its efforts has put the Israelis on the horns of a dilemma: either request a ceasefire or push for a full invasion of southern Lebanon (each fraught with disastrous consequences).

Defense Tech also links to another commentary by Eric Umansky, where he says in part:

Contrary to much of the chatter about how the dynamic developing (sic) –of Hezbollah essentially fighting Israel to a statement (and thus effectively winning)–that really shouldn’t be a surprise. Fighting a counter-guerilla campaign has never worked well from the air, nor have efforts to bomb people into submission. 

But that’s all (recent) history. The question is what should Israel do now. And honestly, I’m just not sure.

Well, I am sure of several things.  First of all, I would slightly modify Defense Tech’s assessment by saying that while a full scale invation has potential disastrous consequences, requesting a ceasefire brings certain disastrous consequences.  Second, this trouble could have been partially mitigated, if not completely abated, with the deployment of directed energy weapons (Tactical High Energy Laser).

Katyusha multiple rocket launchers were first fielded by the Soviets during World War II. They fire a primitive, short-range unguided rocket that is not very accurate. They have only limited military utility but are perfect for terror. Hezbollah has a vast stockpile of Katyushas.

 

This threat is not new, and the United States and Israel have been working on countermeasures for over a decade. In 1996, the U.S. Army and the Israeli Ministry of Defense began joint development of a system, the Tactical High Energy Laser (THEL), to defend against the types of rockets Hezbollah is using against Israel today. The Army terminated development of the system in 2006 because of technical complexities and lack of mobility. It wasn’t really ready for the battlefield. There is a “relocatable? version of THEL in development, but funding for the program has been limited. It will not be ready for at least another 18 months. So ten years after development began, there is still no defensive system in the field to protect America and its allies from terrorist rocket attacks.

 

The real tragedy is that the THEL works. At the White Sands Missile Range, THEL intercepted Katyusha rockets 46 times, as well as artillery and mortar projectiles, in single, multiple, and surprise engagements. The basic technology is proven and has been in development for 20 years.

 

This is a clear case of the perfect being the enemy of the good. If the U.S. Army continues development of THEL and deploys it, even with imperfections, Israel would have a defensive capability in place in the near future, when it is desperately needed. 

But since THEL is not currently deployed, the trouble is ongoing and there is no end in sight from bombardment from the thousands more rockets that Hezbollah claims that it has.  Given these thought-boundaries, Israel should have (in my humble opinion) either negotiated and taken the risk that Hezbollah ended up stronger, or gone all the way and done an aggresive, large-scale, all-out blitz of southern Lebanon to completely clean out Hezbollah, still attempting to prevent civilian casualties while at the same time ignoring international calls for a ceasefire due to the civilian casualties.

An intermediate result is the worst of all possible worlds.  It virtually ensures multi-party negotiations that do not favor the best interests of the Israelis, while Israeli bombs have been traded tet-a-tet with Hezbollah rockets.  That is, Hezbollah survives, the public in Lebanon is turned against Israel because of the targeting of transportation infrastructure (which, to be sure, have a tactical value but affect civilians), and Hezbollah gets to claim victory.

But it might be far too late now for the Israeli Security Council to reverse course.  They seem to have chosen a half-way measure, and they might regret it.

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  • http://www.makara.us Vic

    Further, the obvious question is — who (other than CNN/BBC) IS taking all the photos of Lebanese tragedy, and why isn’t this happening in Israel — or the same type/number of minutes provided of civilians sheltered in bunkers? Israel gives numbers of its soldiers killed or wounded, yet … there is no reporting of any number of Hezbollah killed or wounded, by Hezbollah. I am, of course, assuming, as Lebanese political speakers have recently announced, that Hezbollah is their defense force. Thus, are they not under similar rules of engagement as any other legitimate state’s military would be? Obviously, again, there is a major league double standard going on. (aka good propaganda).
    sign me — a simple blonde chick, of no discernable national or religious affiliation.
    vic

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This article is filed under the category(s) Terrorism,War & Warfare and was published July 30th, 2006 by Herschel Smith.

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